Working out (how) to reduce sickness absence
Authors: Karen Middleton
Chief Executive, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy
06 June 2014
Sickness absence can devastate lives and brings huge costs for employers. The Office of National Statistics reports that illness and injury costs the UK economy £13.8bn a year so it remains an ongoing mystery – and source of frustration – that more employers do not do more to boost the health and wellbeing of staff.
Indeed, a survey conducted for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy suggests job pressures are causing poor working habits that could lead to even higher levels of absence.
More than a third of people had a week of annual leave remaining last year, with 23 per cent leaving at least a fortnight untouched.
Some 30 per cent of these people said they had too much work to do, while nearly a quarter cited either pressure not to take time off or fears about job security as their reason.
People are working extra hours too – 32 per cent said they started early or finished late each day – and 21 per cent always work through their lunch.
It’s understandable to be anxious during uncertain financial times. With bills to pay and a big workload, the importance of looking after yourself physically may not be a priority.
But neglecting your mental and physical wellbeing to concentrate on work can be counterproductive if it leads to say, lower back pain that worsens to the point that it requires an absence from work.
That is precisely why it is so important for employers to take the lead and create an environment that recognises the benefits of a healthy workforce.
Spreading that message today are hundreds of physiotherapists, who are going into workplaces and other public spaces to run events as part of our Workout at Work Day initiative. They will be demonstrating the easy ways to get physical activity into the working day and how they can be encouraged to do so by employers such as
- offering subsidised gym memberships
- arranging lunchtime running / walking clubs, for instance.
- setting up after-work sports clubs
- introducing ‘walking meetings’
- ensuring staff take regular breaks, including a full lunch break
Physiotherapists themselves are keeping people in work through employer-funded services that provide a combination of preventative measures and fast, effective treatment.
The physios work with employers to provide safe, effective work environments and provide advice and treatment to employees who begin to develop a problem that could result in sick leave. In many cases, this early intervention prevents any absence from being necessary. If someone does go on sick leave, they are seen as soon as possible before conditions can worsen, to ensure the symptoms are treated and any underlying behavioural or environmental factors – such as a badly-designed work station – are dealt with to facilitate a swift return to work. This is good for the individual, saves money for the employer and boosts the economy overall by keeping a taxpayer in work.
It’s a triple-win situation that ultimately comes down to collaboration.
Because if workers take responsibility for their own health, and are supported in those efforts by their employer, we can make a serious dent on those sickness absence statistics, improving the quality of life for many people and the economy as a whole.
Workout at Work Day is on 6 June. Visit www.csp.org.uk for more information #workoutatwork
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